History of the prize
Established in 2008, the Khorana Prize is named after Nobel Laureate Har Gobind Khorana.
Born in 1922, in Punjab, Khorana's father was keen to educate his family, making Khorana and his siblings the only literate children in the village. Khorana attended high school in Multan where one of his teachers had a key influence on him. After obtaining his MSc in 1945 from Punjab University, in Lahore, Khorana moved to Liverpool on a Government of India Fellowship to complete a PhD under the supervision of Roger Beer. Following a postdoctoral year in Zurich, under the supervision of Vladimir Prelog, he continued his studies at Cambridge University where his interest in nucleic acids and proteins developed. Khorana moved to Canada in 1952 to work on the synthesis of ribotrinucleotides for protein synthesis at Vancouver University.
In 1960, Khorana became a citizen of the United States, where he spent the rest of his research years until retirement. At the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin he worked on nucleotide synthesis and cracking the genetic code. During this time he proved the existence of codons and confirmed that nucleotide arrangement determines a cell's chemical composition and function. From 1970 Khorana held the post of Alfred P Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry at MIT. His research included synthesis of the first artificial copy of the yeast gene and exploration of molecular mechanisms associated with cell signalling pathways in vertebrate vision.
In 1968 Khorana received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Robert Holley and Marshall Nirenberg for "their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis". In 2007, in Khorana's honour, the Government of India, the University of Wisconsin, and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum founded the Khorana programme to develop an international community of industrialist, scientists, and social entrepreneurs.
The prize was established through a bequest from Adrien Albert. In 2021, the purposes of this Trust were amended, and remaining monies were combined with other generous bequests and donations to become part of the RSC Recognition Fund.